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Ohio lawmakers narrow lethal injection bill

11 December 2014, 11:20

Columbus - Ohio lawmakers on Wednesday removed a measure from a death penalty bill amid worries that it would have prompted the European Union to ban exports of a key anaesthetic to the US.

At issue was a requirement that would have told drugmakers they couldn't restrict distribution of drugs that could be used in executions. Doctor and drug makers warned the EU would quickly ban the export of the anaesthetic propofol to the US if Ohio's bill became law.

Europe supplies almost 90% of propofol used in the United states and no similar drug shares its safety and effectiveness, Dr Robert Small, an anaesthesiologist representing the Ohio Society of Anaesthesiologists, told the Civil Justice Committee.

"A shortage of this medicine would set the medical speciality of anaesthesiology back 20 years," he said, leading to complications from an increased rate of nausea and vomiting after surgery along with extended time to wake up from surgery.

The president of a company whose drugs include propofol said the restriction would have a "cascading effect" that would harm patients and their families in Ohio.

Also read: Mode of execution 'terrifies' US inmate

"This would almost certainly cause delays or deferrals of elective surgeries nationwide," said John Ducker, president and CEO of Illinois-based drugmaker Fresenius Kabi.

Last year, the Missouri Department of Corrections dropped plans to use propofol as an execution drug because of concerns that the move could create a shortage of the popular anaesthetic if the EU restricted its export.

The Ohio legislative committee, which scheduled a final vote on Thursday, kept in place a requirement that companies providing Ohio with lethal injection drugs would have their names shielded for at least 20 years if the drugmaker specifically asks for anonymity.

The anonymity is aimed at so-called compounding pharmacies that mix doses of specialty drugs.

Ohio hasn't executed an inmate since January, when Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted for 26 minutes before dying, during a procedure using a never-tried combination of a sedative and painkiller. It was Ohio's longest execution.

- AP

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